**This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. I know many still suffer in silence and shame. I am hoping by being brave that maybe even just one person hears a story of hope and healing and seeks help. Check back this week as I continue a series on ED Awareness. -Jackie
My journey from eating disorder to recovery has spanned 15+ years, but the sweetest feeling in the world is knowing that there IS life after an eating disorder. It doesn’t have to forever be the defining statement over your life, your relationships and your thoughts. Recovery is possible, just never give up.
My struggle with food and eating began in my elementary years, I can’t pinpoint a year, but I know I had an unhealthy relationship with food even back then. I slowly gained weight and by junior high was pretty overweight. The pre-teen/teenage years are pretty unforgiving when it comes to being overweight. It seems that people love to target and pick on the overweight kids. I was bullied and made fun of on a regular basis through junior high, but you would probably never know it, I learned to hide it well. By the end of 8th grade I remember having episodes of purging, but it was scattered here and there. It was often coupled with stress and handling all these feelings that I didn’t know what to do with.
By high school, in 9th/10th grade, my struggle had become an all out battle. What was at one point a stress relief became an overwhelming addiction that I had lost complete control over. I lost a very large amount of weight through this time and by 10th grade, not long after my 16th birthday, my family doctor recommended to my parents that they seek intense treatment for me. I spent six weeks at an inpatient eating disorder clinic and due to insurance was told I had to leave and pursue treatment back at home. I struggled with depression, anxiety, thinking that this was the end of my story, I couldn’t see hope outside of my eating disorder, it was my best friend and my worst enemy and it had its grips on me.
During this time I became a Christian and wrestled through much of this with the Lord. I begged for healing, I begged to wake up “normal” one day. I knew that God could heal me from this and I struggled oftentimes as to why He didn’t. Now I look back and know that this was all for a purpose, I am who I am today because of this struggle, but in the midst of it, I couldn’t see past it.
Fast forward through high school, as I continued to struggle. I graduated and moved off to college and my eating disorder amplified in my new independence. I struggled hard through those years. I am an overachiever and push myself to my limits at anything I do. I was trying to balance college studies and my struggle with an eating disorder, and having a hard time. I was pushing to graduate college with a double major in three years, wanting to keep all A’s. I used my eating as an escape for the stress I felt. A binge/purge cycle would relieve the feelings of anxiety that built up inside.
There were times that I’d get a handle on my eating, I’d think I had made a turn for the better, and then without notice I’d be swept into the struggle more fully than the time before. Eating disorders are rough because you always think you have control of it, until you realize that you don’t. I saw therapists. psychiatrist, etc throughout this time, all trying to help me…all aiding in my eating. None ever understanding how I kept falling back into the same cycles over and over.
I got engaged in my last year of college and a year after college, I got married. Shortly after getting married I found out I was pregnant. Eating disorders and pregnancy are hard. You’re already freaked out about your body and then it starts morphing and changing in ways you cannot control. I did my best. My very, very best for my child. Trying my hardest to always put her needs before mine, I did well for awhile, but once she was born the struggles continued to come and go. I know that God had a purpose in giving me that little girl back then. She made me want to be better for her, to be a better mom, better person. So when I began to struggle again, I could not understand it. I didn’t want to, I couldn’t rationalize why God would give me a child, only for me to be thrown back into the woes of my eating and not be able to be fully present when I was struggling.
God has His perfect way of knowing what’s best for us, because four years later I had another daughter and somewhere in between this time, in the highs and the lows, I began to crawl out of the pit I had been sucked into for 15 years. I can’t pin point a moment, I can’t tell you I did x,y,z, and that helped me. I don’t know exactly what it was. I do know I never stopped trying to get better. The Lord was beyond gracious to sustain me. When I had given up on myself, He never did. He was my provider, my sustainer, my grace-giver when I absolutely did not deserve it. He held me tight in His grip through the worst of times. And I can promise you this, He was rejoicing the most the day I declared this battle as done, in Jesus name. He fought hard for me, even when I didn’t want to fight for myself. He never gave up on me.
Lets jump to today….I have 2 beautiful little girls that are 4 and 8. They look to me as an example, they want to look like me, act like me, be me. That is very scary when you struggle with an eating disorder and you’d give your life to spare them from this struggle. I started working out and lifting weights a few years back and begin to find the strength in my body to be amazing. Just very recently, I discovered my love of running. I just completed my first Half Marathon on February 9 and am still in awe that I ran that far. I see beauty, I see the redemption of the cross, I see a newfound respect for my body for its strength to carry me. I have found my legs to be such an amazing gift to me, food is now fuel for me and I have such a healthy relationship with it that I shock myself on a regular basis. I can truly say running has been a huge part of what the Lord used to heal me. It has given back to me something that I never knew I possessed….worth in myself and a love for myself.
Running has made me feel whole, see my worthiness as the Lord created me. I am a Christian and I thank God always for sustaining me in my struggle. He truly has given me the strength to press on and never give up. My faith carried me in the darkness and that coupled with my running shoes are carrying me places I never thought possible.
I fought a hard battle, I never gave up having hope that one day I would live without the struggle of an eating disorder. I am a survivor. My voice may be small, but I am not longer ashamed of the battle I fought. I made it, many others are still fighting and I want to give people the hope….just keep going! If one person finds help, if one person sees hope, then my battle has been well worth it. Eating disorders don’t have to stay hidden and in the dark, there is such beauty in the freedom of the truth.